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The Accra Caucus recently release a report that looks at the development of safeguards in Guyana, Indonesia, Nepal, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report finds that “there are continuing concerns about the current direction of REDD+, especially in some countries”.
The Accra Caucus is a network of NGOs representing about one hundred civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisation from 38 countries. Since it was formed in Accra in 2008, it has followed closely the REDD negotiations at the UNFCCC.
Here’s how the Accra Caucus describes its work:
The Caucus works to place the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities at the centre of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), and to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance and are not a substitute for emissions reductions in industrialised countries.
The report “REDD+ safeguards: more than good intentions? Case studies from the Accra Caucus”, can be downloaded here (pdf file, 2.2 MB).
The Accra Caucus report finds problems with the way REDD is being developed in each of the countries in which case studies were carried out:
In the national REDD+ ‘readiness’ processes evaluated here, concerns over land-tenure issues have been ignored (Guyana); consultations have proved to be inadequate and partial (DRC and Nepal); and in many cases the lure of financial payments for REDD+ is undermining reform, and leading to an increased risk of resource conflict and, ironically, forest loss (Guyana and Cameroon). The need for robust safeguards to influence the development of national law is evident in the Indonesia case.
Safeguards were including in the UNFCCC negotiations on REDD in Cancun in 2010. The following year, in Durban, Parties agreed that a system was needed to provide information on these safeguards, but the details of the reporting are still to be worked out. The Accra Caucus points out that the Cancun safeguards “may still be inadequate to deal with the risks posed by REDD+” and criticises the lack of a mechanism to check whether countries are complying to the safeguards. Without such a mechanism, safeguards may “end up as mere good intentions”.
The report concludes that,
[T]o sustainably reduce forest loss in tropical countries, policy and legislative reforms needed which take account of key governance, social and environmental issues are needed. Measures designed to improve forest governance, in particular securing the tenure rights of forest dependent peoples, must be at the forefront of efforts to halt forest loss. There is strong evidence that greenhouse gas emissions reductions will occur as a co-benefit of policies targeted at governance reform, and that policies and laws designed through inclusive processes and delivering a broad range of benefits are more likely to be sustainable in the long term.
The report summarises the lessons from the case studies, as follows:
The example of Guyana demonstrates the failure of national consultation processes with indigenous communities, and shows the extent of the gap between current practice and established international standards on full and effective participation and consultation, and respect for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Not only does the process of participation and consultation often fail to live up to its name: it may also be used to manipulate communities that are poorly informed about climate change and REDD+, and to undermine the rights of forest-dependent peoples. Furthermore, existing laws and policies that are relevant to indigenous peoples in Guyana are not in line with Guyana’s commitment to international standards. This leaves little hope that REDD+ will improve matters, unless the international community can shine a spotlight on current shortcomings.
The case from Nepal highlights the need for awareness-raising in indigenous communities that are likely to be involved in and affected by REDD+. Nepal has not used the REDD+ readiness process as an opportunity to acknowledge indigenous cultures and livelihoods or to acknowledge indigenous peoples as rights-holders, even though it was a party to the recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 169. The lack of security of the land rights of indigenous peoples in Nepal raises the risk that REDD+ may in fact undermine their livelihoods and rights, and drive them deeper into poverty.
The Cameroon case study outlines lessons from existing benefit-sharing systems in existing laws regarding forestry, wildlife and fisheries, raising concerns with these existing mechanisms to inform the development of a REDD+ benefit-sharing mechanism. Existing systems have had mixed results, with sometimes negative impacts on local development and poverty reduction. To avoid elite capture, and the corruption which has beset other areas of resource distribution in Cameroon, the case highlights that the rules for the distribution of REDD+ benefits must be based on a transparent and participatory process involving all stakeholders and rights-holders.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is perceived to have good civil society and indigenous peoples’ involvement in the preparations for REDD+, but there is still a long way to go for meaningful and influential participation. Their participation has been hampered by insufficient resources, lack of capacity in the REDD+ governance bodies, and, crucially failure of commitment by the government to assume the overall responsibility for consultations on REDD+. In practice, consultations have been left in the hands of civil society, who have been increasingly distrustful of the multiple REDD+ institutions established to enable stakeholder participation. The suspicion is that they are designed to give the international community the impression that there is a participatory process, while in reality the key decisions are made behind closed doors.
The case study from Indonesia illustrates the importance of strong safeguards for the functioning of REDD+. The notion of ’national circumstances’ is setting REDD+ up for failure when existing laws and policies are not consistent with the safeguards. In these cases REDD+ is less likely to contribute to sustainable forest protection, and forest-dependent communities may have little protection against possible negative consequences. An authoritative Safeguards Information System (SIS) should provide guidance, monitor national developments, and give feedback on the impact of REDD+ activities on indigenous peoples in Indonesia.
The reported lack of participation, lack of will to address tenure concerns, and failure to respect internationally recognised rights in the implementation of REDD+, all give cause for concern; however, international attention on REDD+ safeguards has in some cases encouraged greater dialogue between governments and forest-dependent communities, including indigenous peoples. The focus on REDD+ safeguards has brought increased attention to old problems, such as poor forest governance, biodiversity loss, disrespect for local and indigenous knowledge and human rights (including indigenous peoples’ rights and the lack of good participation and consultation processes), and it has spotlighted human rights issues such as free, prior and informed consent.